We have recently moved the
Creative Class Exchange.

Please update your bookmarks with our new address at www.creativeclass.com

We look forward to your comments and discussion.

Thank you.

Posts by Author

  • Global Trends
  • Ask Rana: Advice on Work, Life and Play
  • Urban Digs, Creative Class Communities
  • Workplace
  • Entrepreneurship, Creative Class Strategies
  • Creative Class Research and Indicators
  • Architecture + Design

Video Interview

Watch a Speech

Hear a Speech




January 31, 2007


Click here for more information.

Richard Florida

Design and class

Over at the design blog, Drawing on Promises, "Blank" raises some intriguing questions about the relationship between design and social class.

Like it or not, design has class. And no, I don’t mean it's classy as in elegant or fashionable, although design is a very trendy business world accessory of late. And I don't mean design has class as in groups that share the same common attributes. I mean design has class as in an artificial social hierarchy--much of it self inflicted. This more subtle definition of class creates a division where one group is perceived as "better" or "higher" or "more refined" than the other. This trend is nothing new. Art, architecture, literature, culture, music, etc. all have created similar class systems. And we as designers are somewhat guilty for creating artificial divisions in design. Let me explain.

I recently listened to an online video given by Malcom Gladwell, well known author of the Tipping Point and Blink. He tells the story of how in the early '70's Grey Poupon Dijon mustard broke into a field dominated by two plain yellow mustards. How? First, they created a different type of mustard that was spicy and brown. Then through design and advertising they created an artificial mustard social class, where plain yellow mustards should be perceived as "common" and Grey Poupon as "upper class" mustard. Grey Poupon became a mustard to aspire to, not merely consume. Soon, many in advertising and design were following their lead, creating products and services that were based on aspiration and social hierarchy where there had been none before. Think computers: Mac (creative class) vs PC (corporate working class). Think cars: Ford (working class) vs BMW (upper crust).

This last sentence really caught my attention. Could it be that part of the problem at Ford and GM goes far beyond - and far deeper - than the quality and performance of their cars - that at least part of the problem is the way their cars are perceived as conveying a certain class status?  More to the point, with all the talk over niche markets and long-tails, could it be that the perception of social class remains a powerful tool in marketing to consumer groups? Your thoughts?

Continue reading "Design and class" »

Martin Wolf puts his finger on what is perhaps the biggest issue of our time - the growing divergence between "economic progress" and "political turmoil" in the Financial Times (subscription only, hat tip: Mark Thoma).

The world's economy is in excellent shape, but its politics is disturbing. ..-. The question is whether and how this divergence might end. ...

One possible outcome might be the exact opposite of conventional wisdom: economic disappointment and political stability. ... Today, the underpricing of risk and the combination of low interest rates with fast growth almost invite economic blunders. Meanwhile, the world's political leaders, aware of the risks of conflict and reliant on their people's prosperity for retaining power, may well continue to muddle through. This surprising outcome is quite possible.

A second alternative is that the economic and political tracks would continue in their separate directions. The reason for this would be that, far from being distinct, the contrasting economics and politics are two faces of just one globalising world. ...

The fact that economics is making our world more interdependent and connected, while politics remains national or local, makes the contrast between economics and politics inevitable. ...

It is plausible, therefore, that political disarray and economic success will continue in tandem, the challenge being to avoid the emergence of too wide a gap between the two. For, as we learned in the first half of the 20th century, a big enough backlash is capable of causing devastation. In a nuclear age, that devastation would be greater still. ...

A third possibility is that the politics overwhelms the economics, as it did between 1914 and 1945 and in the communist "second world" and much of the so-called "third world" for much longer. An attack on Iran - a much-discussed possibility in Davos - would bring far closer the clash of civilisations... feared by so many... In that case, the economic optimism of today would prove unfounded - possibly destroyed by a world of $150-a-barrel oil in the aftermath of the closing of the straits of Hormuz through which so much of the world's oil flows.

Yet there is also a far more comforting possibility: the economics overwhelms the politics. One of the stories of our era is the way in which vast countries such as China and India are orienting their politics around the goal of prosperity. This forces them to seek domestic and global stability and accept international openness and mutual dependence. They see no benefit in international conflict. It is surely possible that this view of national priorities will take hold in more of the world, including the Middle East. ...

In such a world, the issues discussed in Davos - climate change, the Doha round and African development - might be handled successfully. The difficulties of collective action are profound. But ..., the less credible are unilateral approaches to a resolution, the more likely are co-operative ones.

This year's "Davos dilemma" - the contrast between the world's favourable economics and troublesome politics - is clear enough. But its resolution is not. A range of possible outcomes, from the perverse and catastrophic to the uncomfortable and even benign, is conceivable. The outcome is not inevitable. We can choose.

Jerry Mayer and I take up this theme in our essay on "The Unsettled Politics of the Creative Age."  Click here to download.

What are your thoughts?

January 30, 2007

Richard Florida

New talent studies

I use the occupational statistics from the Bureau of  Labor Statistics all the time. But it's also worth noting that the Bureau's researchers produce some of the best research on regional trends and on talent shifts around.  Here are links to some of the best studies of the past year.

New report on the Washington DC regional economy
:  It shows how Northern Virgina has emerged as a second center and also how the region is less dependent on government employment, more diversified and the nation's leading concentration for business and professional services.

Manhattan's economy since 9/11

New Orleans economy after Katrina

Foreign-born workforce

Global labor market comparisons

Occupational changes since 1900

Workforce projections out to 2050

Richard Florida

Davos does demography

According to this report by Christoper Power: "One of the dominant themes emerging from Davos this year is the power of demographics. Population isn't exactly destiny, but it's a huge determinant in how nations, economies, and companies fare. And the demographics often reveal trends that, on the surface at least, contradict the general appearance of a nation's prosperity." Amen! The whole story is here.

The new 2007  Index of Silicon Valley is out. This year's effort by Doug Henton and the terrific team at Collaborative Economics is the best one yet.  In addition to tracking trends in high-tech and venture investment, it includes a detailed section on Silicon Valley in a spiky world, with  new data on the global distribution of patents, IT employment, and venture investments. This special section has a detailed analysis of talent and diversity which concludes that "Silicon Valley’s diverse ethnic composition will be its chief asset in the global marketplace, where new technology regions in Asia, Israel, and Europe are emerging as competitors and collaborators."   The report includes a detailed analysis of the externalities of the creative economy, including worsening economic inequality and deepening problems of housing affordability, noting  that: " the region faces significant challenges... the percentage of first-time home buyers who can afford the median-priced home is 26 percent, down from 31 percent in 2005."

The report  concludes that Silicon Valley is: "growing as a global center for creativity in business and technology, defining our advantage by being creators of new products, services, companies and business models. This is a fundamental restructuring, away from the old manufacturing model toward a new idea economy. We can see it happening very clearly, and our region’s companies are taking full advantage.  The question for Silicon Valley is whether there will be broad participation in these activities—particularly for the rising generation—or whether we’re looking at a future where our companies prosper through their global networks but the region doesn’t feel better off.”

The full report is here.

Richard Florida

Quality of Place

Have a look at this article  on "Place-making for the Creative Class" by James Richard in the current issue of  Landscape Architecture magazine. It's based on the findings of the detailed fieldwork and interviews for his University of Texas master's thesis on quality of place in Austin, Seattle and Washington DC.

Richard Florida

Flight of the fliers

More than 800 million  people traveled internationally last year, breaking previous records,  according to a new report from the United Nations' World Tourism Organization. Tourism was up 4 percent in Europe and the Middle East, 7.6 percent in Asia-Pacific and 8.1percent in Africa - and 4.5 percent overall.

Guess what region had the weakest growth?   North America, where tourism was up just 2 percent.  While one might think the weaker U.S. dollar would encourage travelers to head to America, tourism from Western Europe to the US fell 3 percent last year.  According to the report, "widespread confusion over  U.S. visa and passport requirements for foreign visitors" is to (hat tip:  Shari Young Kuchenbecker). 

Brian Knudsen sent me this link to Robert's Sullivan's terrific oped in yesterday's New York Times:

"For the past two decades, New York has been an inspiration to other American cities looking to revive themselves. Yes, New York had a lot of crime, but somehow it also still had neighborhoods, and a core that had never been completely abandoned to the car. Lately, though, as far as pedestrian issues go, New York is acting more like the rest of America, and the rest of America is acting more like the once-inspiring New York."

Continue reading "The City that Never Walks" »

January 29, 2007

Richard Florida

Real estate is spiky

Heat_map Here's Trulia's national real estate heat map on the left.  You can drill downMillion_dollar_homes for more detailed information on states,  counties, cities, neighborhoods, and zip codes by clicking on the live map over at their site.

On the right is competitor  Zillow's list of million dollar homes by city. There, you can use Zestimates to create all sorts of interesting data on real estate trends.

And over at the ominously titled Housing Doom, there's a list  (below) of foreclosed properties by state, based on  data on Fannie Mae-owned properties.  It's not the list they imagined, dominated as it is by heartland states like Ohio and Michigan, with bubble markets conspicuously absent, at least for the time being.  Housing_bubble Click on any of these graphics to enlarge.


Your thoughts on what might be behind these trends and patterns?